Street performers go online to survive

Buskers reached out to their audiences through social media where they would broadcast live sessions and provide their bank account details

by AZALEA AZUAR / Pic Source: YouTube

STREET entertainers, or buskers, are among those who are badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, but they are making use of their creativity to stay afloat and adapt to these challenging times.

According to Malaysian Buskers Club (MYBC) founder and president Wady Hamdan, like many other businesses, buskers had to resort to online busking during the Movement Control Order.

“Buskers are live entertainers; we perform on the streets and in shopping malls in front of live audiences. So, when everyone cannot go out due to the lockdown, we had to adjust and work on online busking,” he said.

Buskers reached out to their audiences through social media such as their Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts where they would broadcast live sessions and provide their bank account details so that they would receive their payment.

“In the busking community, when they have a live session, fellow buskers would share it around,” said Wady.

Although online busking is not enough to sustain them, he said this initiative was better than nothing. Wady was also observing the idea of virtual busking in supermarkets where there would be speakers and screens set up but buskers would be performing from the safety of their homes while also interacting with the shoppers.

“We want to show that buskers are very creative and innovative, so when we come up with this concept, buskers will perform from home while the videos would be broadcasted live in the supermarkets and we would also make it an interactive experience with the supermarket crowd.

“This is new content we will explore soon,” said Wady.

The club had also successfully reached out to state governments where they managed to organise a virtual busking competition last year.

With the support from the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry as well as the National Security Council, busking activities can now be carried out at mega vaccination centres (PPVs).

“We just started this last week. The purpose of busking at PPVs is to appreciate all the frontliners as well as offer some entertainment to the vaccine recipients and at the

same time, help the buskers to earn some income. This is a good initiative but we must remember to always follow all the standard operating procedures,” he added.

Under this initiative, currently, busking sessions are available at the KL World Trade Centre, KL Convention Centre, Setia City Convention Centre, Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre, Bukit Jalil National Stadium and Universiti Teknologi Mara Shah Alam PPVs.

Busking at PPVs is currently only available in the Klang Valley but Wady hoped it would expand to other states.

“We are trying to help buskers from other states but right now the pilot project starts in the Klang Valley. The government would be helping to expand this project to other states also,” he said.

MYBC has also worked closely with government agencies like the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana).

“With Cendana, any grants that were given to us will be distributed to the members,” said Wady.

At the end of the day, it is not the assistance that they sought, but a steady source of income.

“It has become a new era for the busking scene where we have to try out all these new ways to survive,” he added.

While there are many part-time buskers, there are also full-timers who, during the pandemic, had resorted to selling their instruments and took up other jobs.

MYBC aims to transform the Malaysian busking scene and unite all the local buskers into a big community.

At present, the club has more than 13,000 members nationwide.

“Buskers, like any other musicians, need to keep playing music. It is more than just their career, it is their life, so we cannot stop them.

“That is why we have one NGO responsible for the community and we will always create whatever platform we can for them to feel alive,” Wady said, adding that he hoped the pandemic would be over soon so buskers could go back to doing what they do best.